Thursday, February 13, 2014

Okanagan Crush Pad thinks outside the box

Okanagan Crush Pad's Matt Dumayne

It seems that pushing the boundaries of winemaking is a way of life at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery.

Matt Dumayne, one of the OCP winemakers, hosted a Vancouver tasting recently that began with a so-called orange wine. This is actually a technical term referring to a white wine which has had prolonged skin maceration and may have picked up some colour.

The OCP wine is from the 2013 vintage. It is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay that was fermented on the skins and left on the skins.

“It is completely natural, with no sulphur, no enzyme and no yeast,” Matt said in early January. “There has been absolutely nothing added to it.”

By now, the wine may have been transferred into two clay amphorae that have just been delivered to OCP from a supplier in Tuscany. The wine may spend another six to eight months before being released. Whether consumers will understand such a wine remains to be seen. But there is no question that the wine’s esoteric qualities will find enough fans to support it.

All of the other wines being released by OCP, under such labels as Haywire and Bartier & Scholefield, are mainstream – but all show notes of original winemaking.

OCP is a Summerland winery that began marketing the Haywire wines in 2010. It also operates as a custom crush winery, with Michael Bartier as the senior winemaker. Labels that started here before moving into wineries of their own have included Harper’s Trail, Sage Hills, C.C. Jentsch Cellars and Platinum Bench. Current client wineries include Perseus, a Penticton winery. Matt serves as the Perseus winemaker.

OCP differentiated itself from the start by retaining Alberto Antonini (right), a consulting winemaker from Italy. It would be an understatement to call him provocative.

He appears to have influenced OCP’s major commitment to fermenting and storing some of its wines in concrete. This was the first winery in the Okanagan to have egg-shaped concrete fermentation tanks alongside traditional stainless steel tanks. Antonini once remarked that he smells life in a concrete tank but all he smells in stainless steel is “death.”

“In the early days [of winemaking], people were fermenting in clay or oak or cement,” he has said. “There is so much more life in those containers.”

He has also influenced OCP to ferment with the native yeasts. “When I started [making wine], there were no commercial yeasts and the grapes fermented very well,” says Alberto, who started his career more than 25 years ago with the Frescobaldi winery. He argues that commercial years are isolated “1,000 miles away” and the wines will not express the sense of place compared with wines made with the native yeasts of Okanagan vineyards.

You can find plenty of winemakers to give you an argument. I know a couple who think concrete tanks make no difference and, because they are harder to clean, may nurture deleterious yeasts and bacteria. Alberto argues that a good steam cleaning is enough to keep the vessels sanitary but not sterile.

The bottom line is how the wines taste. The Haywire Wild Ferment Pinot Gris 2012, which was fermented with native yeast in concrete, is clean and refreshing, with a fullness on the palate that can be attributed to the lees contact it had in concrete.

OCP also consults with a friend of Alberto’s, a Chilean viticulturist called Pedro Parra. His back-to-basics thinking on vineyards is reflected in his self-proclaimed title: a terroirist.

One of the first things Pedro did for OCP was study the winery’s 10-acre Switchback Vineyard, planted entirely to Pinot Gris. His work has identified five different blocks within that vineyard, flagging individual qualities of the blocks, leading to optimal management.

“The vineyard is all organically farmed,” Matt Dumayne says. “We are about to receive certification on that. It has been three years since we switched over and I notice the vines have gone through a transformation – smaller bunches, smaller berries, less crop – as they are adjusting to the removal of fertilizers. But the flavours that are coming out are more intense.”

Pedro and Alberto are now advising on the development of a biodynamic vineyard that OCP will begin planting this spring in the Garnet Valley, just north of Summerland.

“We are planting 12 acres this year; 25,000 own-rooted Pinot Noir vines are going in,” Matt says. “The property is 312 acres. Sixty or seventy acres will be planted, 70 % of that Pinot Noir. The balance will be Riesling and Chardonnay.”

The wines released so far under the various OCP brands already are very well made, with an emerging sense of place. Here are notes drawn from several recent tastings.

Haywire Pink Bub 2012 ($25 for 100 cases). This pink sparkling wine is being released for the Valentine season. It is 51% Pinot Noir, 49% Chardonnay (or close to those numbers because a dosage of red wine is added when the wine is disgorged. It is fresh and delicious, with hints of cherry and with a green apple crispness. 88.

Haywire The Bub 2012 ($25). This is the second vintage of a white sparkling wine, made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The wine displays a creamy texture and fresh flavours of apple and peach. 90.

Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris 2011 ($23 for 1,000 cases). Lean and lemony, this wine expresses the crisp austerity of a cool vintage. This is a classic wine for shell fish. 88.

Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris 2012 ($23 for 971 cases). Both the warmer vintage and improving techniques the vineyard have come together to produce a richly satisfying Pinot Gris, with aromas and flavours of citrus and peach. 90.

Haywire Switchback Wild Ferment Pinot Gris 2012 ($29.90 for 200 cases). This wine shows excellent intensity, with stone fruit aromas, flavours of peach, apricot and pear and with good weight on the palate. 91.

Haywire Canyonview Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($35 for 413 cases). Grapes from the Canyonview Vineyard near Summerland (not owned by OCP) have produced award winning wines for several producers. This wine, which was aged in old French oak and then transferred to concrete eggs for further aging, is a light but pretty wine, with aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry and with a classic silky texture. 90.

Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2012 ($35 for 413 cases; not yet released). This vintage is darker and fuller, with spicy cherry aromas. On the palate, it is a silken with plum and cherry flavours. 90-91.

Bartier Scholefield Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($23 for 125 cases). Crisp and fresh, this wine has herbal and citrus aromas with delicate flavours of lime. 89.

Bartier Scholefield Chardonnay 2012 ($23 for 101 cases). This unoaked Chardonnay has tropical notes of citrus and pineapple, with a fresh and crisp finish. 90.

Bartier Scholefield White Table Wine 2011 ($20). This straight-forward white has melons and apples on the palate. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 89.

Bartier Scholefield Rosé 2011 ($17). The winery’s website still shows the 2010 vintage; the winemakers believe that, contrary to conventional wisdom, rosé wines can take a bit of age. The 2011 vintage has the lively acidity that will preserve its appealing strawberry and cranberry aromas and flavours. The wine is made with Gamay grapes. 89.

Bartier Scholefield Red Table Wine 2011 ($20 for 408 cases). This is a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir and Gamay. The Syrah brings appealing notes of pepper to the aroma. There are spiced cherry flavours. The wine has the weight of a good Beaujolais.

One of the OCP clients is the Penticton-based Perseus Winery and Vineyards. The recent vintages have been made primarily at the OCP winery. The winemaker for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages was Tom DiBello. Here are notes on recent releases.

Perseus Pinot Gris 2013 (Not yet released). Winemaker Matt Dumayne stopped the ferment to leave a trace of residual sugar. That was a good idea: it gives the wine a juicy texture and it lifts the aromas and flavours of peach, pear, apples and citrus. 90.

Perseus Viognier 2013 (Not yet released). Made from grapes grown on Black Sage Road, this shows a classic viscous texture. It beings with an appealing perfumed aroma, leading to flavours of apricot and pineapple. 90.

Perseus Gewürztraminer 2012 ($14.99). This begins with appealing aromas of citris and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit and apple. The Muscat side of this variety expresses itself with very slight spicy bitterness on the finish. 89.

Perseus Merlot 2011 ($21.99). This is a vibrant wine with flavours of blueberry and black currant. Ripe tannins give it a fleshy texture. 88.

Perseus Syrah Malbec 2011 ($28.99). Dark in hue, this begins with aromas of black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry and chocolate, with white pepper and spice on the finish. 90.

Perseus Invictus 2010 Select Lots ($32.99).  This is 56% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. It begins with inviting aromas of vanilla and plum, leading to flavours of plum, black currant and chocolate. The long finish has notes of spice and cedar. 90.

Perseus Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Select Lots ($49.99). Considering that 2010 was considered a cool vintage, it is a surprise to see an alcohol content of 15.1%. The fruit is so rich and ripe that there is no heat on the finish. It begins with aromas of cassis, vanilla and spice. The berry flavours are complex and layered. The structure is firm enough to give this wine longevity in the cellar. 90.


At March 7, 2014 at 10:58 AM , Blogger Max Wedges said...

Very refreshing to hear from Alberto Antonini.

"Marchere di Frescobaldi" remains among my favorites wines, and Alberto is right on...
'sanitary' does not mean 'sterile'.

(We have used wild yeasts, Chestnut fermenting vats, and concrete tanks, in the past:

The Chestnut vats' tanins helps the with the Pinot Noir colour retention - catalysing the formation of a protective 'aldeide bridge'.

Concrete tanks have a mass that allows for an even fermentation, in our experience)


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